SOUTHEND’S beer scene is bucking the national trend... and brewers are ‘hop-ing’ the good news will continue.

Office for National Statistics data shows the pumps were pouring at around 75 public houses in Southend in 2019 – an increase from 70 in 2007.

That is in stark contrast to most parts of the UK, where the number has continued to drop.

Figures suggest the smoking ban, the recession and a rise in alcohol duty in 2008 are all to blame for landlords calling last orders since.

Indeed in Southend, and across the country, the number of small pubs – those with fewer than ten employees – also rose for the first time since 2002.

Mark Springham, co-founder of the Leigh-on-Sea Brewing Company, said many Southend residents are making the switch from big beer brands to drinking more craft beer.

He said: “The key thing seems to be not just Southend but quite a few other parts of the country the number of dinosaur style pubs are finding it very hard from increased rates, pressure from beer suppliers. Whereas the small craft beer bars tend to be drawing the crowds. These are obviously a bit smaller but they’re more beer aware.

“They’re not afraid to offer different beers, I could name half a dozen in Southend doing well. They’re providing the larger and more of the craft beers.

“Places like the West Road Tap – which almost led the way – the Crafty Half, Hoppily and Craftwerk.

“A lot of people are trying the beers, finding that they like them and then moving away from more traditional larger.

“We brought out two new beers last year. We’re very pleased with how it’s gone.”

In 2007, the average pub in the UK employed five people. Now, the figure stands at eight.

In Southend, a similar trend has been seen, with the average pub employing eight staff in 2019, up from seven in 2007.

An HM Treasury spokesman said: “Small pubs and bars are part of the heart and soul of our communities – so it’s great news they are on the rise.

“We’re committed to giving them support, which is why we will be cutting their bills in half through the business rates retail discount plus further support with a new pubs relief.”

Industry bodies have welcomed a rise in the number of premises across the UK last year after more than a decade of continuous decline and have called for tax breaks to ensure the survival of the “great British pub”.

Across the UK, a 1 per cent rise in the numbers of establishments last year to just over 39,000 was the first increase since 2007, when the figure stood at 51,000.